MANDEL: Princess Diana would be proud

The last time Prince Harry had an audience this overwhelming, he was walking behind the coffin of his beloved Mummy, his head of red hair dipped low so the world would not see his eyes of pain.

More than 20 years later, it is the eve of his wedding and millions around the globe are watching once again. But now his head will be high and his love by his side — though the memory of Princess Diana is unlikely to be far from his thoughts.

Prince Harry is now just three years shy of his mother’s age when she died Sept. 6, 1997 in that horrific car crash in Paris. What a journey it has been for her youngest son to heal from his mourning and reach the altar as a happy and inspiring young man.

How proud she would be.

When I watched the young prince at his mother’s funeral in Westminster Abbey, he was only 12, his feet not even touching the ground, and he looked so lost and broken. Prince Harry would leave the church and spend almost two decades angry and adrift, admitting now that he “shut down” and only began dealing with the emotional fallout of losing his mom so young when Prince William urged him to seek professional help when he was 28.

In the meantime, he was the embarrassing brother, the male version of the Princess Margaret of her time. The spare to the heir kept the tabloids busy with his wild and crass playboy ways: At 20, he was photographed wearing a Nazi armband to a costume party. In 2009, there were recordings of him using derogatory terms to describe Pakistanis in his military academy. In 2012, he was snapped with the royal jewels exposed as he played strip billiards with pals in his Las Vegas VIP suite.

There was the string of model girlfriends as he relished the role of the world’s most eligible bachelor and fury at their kiss and tells. The hard-partying pin-up prince rebelled against living in a goldfish bowl that was not of his making. Not surprisingly, he had no patience for the paparazzi who swarmed him as they once hounded his mother and even got into a physical dust-up with a photographer who got too close.

How long ago that seems now.

In this June 12, 2003 file photo, Prince Harry, 18, punches the air as he leaves Eton College on his last day at the top public school. (AP PHOTO)

He still has that mischievous nature that he proudly inherited from his mother but he is wild Harry no more. After finally getting the help he needed, he’s become the people’s prince that Diana had hoped for: Her son has her charm and ease with strangers and her passion to use their royal pedestal for good.

Like his mother, he’s not afraid to champion causes that make others uncomfortable. Prince Harry marked the anniversary of Diana’s death last year by speaking openly about his struggles with mental health and has become a vocal advocate to end the stigma toward mental illness. He’s continued her fight against landmines and in AIDS education. And after two tours in Afghanistan, the former soldier created the Invictus Games, an international tournament for injured veterans.

It was at the games in Toronto last summer that Prince Harry publicly revealed his relationship with Meghan Markle for the first time. Diana would probably have loved her: She’s an independent woman destined to follow in her footsteps of shaking up the royal firm, though in an entirely new way. Markle is divorced, American and a commoner who looks a little different than the usual stuffy suspects. And unlike her future husband’s late mother’s own tragic tale, this bride is too old to believe in fairy tales.

This 1984 file photo shows Princess Diana with sons Prince William, foreground, and Prince Harry. (AP PHOTO)

Markle is a match for her boy in loving adventure and dedication to charitable causes; a mature partner who can withstand the public glare and has given him stability and love. Most importantly, a woman who has made him happy and grounded at last.

It’s all any mother can ask for.

“Oh, they’d be thick as thieves, without question,” beamed Prince Harry in an interview with the BBC after announcing their engagement. “I think she would be over the moon.”

And right by his side, gliding him down the aisle.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies

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